Wednesday, May 26, 2010

The big leak

There are, I think, significant differences between Hurricane Katrina's devastation and British Petroleum's catastrophic oil leak into the Gulf of Mexico, but right now those differences are less important than the similarities -- and the key similarity is that many Americans perceive the federal government's reaction to the more recent disaster to be slow and incompetent.

Who can blame them? This is a nightmare and it'll have terrible long-term consequences for the Gulf, the coastal states in that region and the countless animals that will suffer and die because of the spill. BP is attempting to use another maneuver today, but it'll be a while before we know if it works. In the meantime, estimates on the amount of oil released into the Gulf are in the tens of millions of gallons.

Democratic strategist and Louisiana native James Carville slammed the Obama Administration today for its lack of fervor and imagination in response to the spill, and he is right to be angry. The government's reaction has been hesitant and uninspiring. Having said all that, I think it's clear that no one really knows what to do. BP comes up with a different idea every couple of days, but nothing has worked. They were obviously unprepared for something like this.

And there is the crux of this cataclysm. What happened after Katrina was the result of the incompetence and lack of leadership in the Bush Administration. What's happened today in the Gulf is, really, the consequences of 30 years of deregulation, begun under Ronald Reagan and pushed forward by the Republicans when they controlled Congress. Corporations act with only the bottom line in mind and it is the job of government to keep them honest.

The regulatory system has clearly failed here -- as it did in the recent coal-mining disaster and as it did in the run-up to the financial crisis. Some of those failures occurred on Obama's watch, and therefore he and his adminsitrati0n are responsible. The time to overhaul the Mine Safety and Health Administration and the Minerals Management Service was before the coal-mine explosion and the oil-rig explosion. Yes, there would likely have been a GOP push-back against such reforms without these disasters on the front page, but we elect people to make those hard choices and to do what is best. At this juncture, we've clearly been let down.


N.starluna said...

It's not just deregulation. We have also privatized much more of what we thought were government responsibilities, like responding to massive oil spills. The federal government does not have the infrastructure or the staff to manage this because it was assumed that it would be taken care of by the private companies responsible for them. Indeed, there was not even the R&D around responding to an incident like this to guide anyone because the government didn't pay for it and neither did private industry.

Kazak said...

And now we're privatizing the space program???

Are there any adults left in the room?